So many times while preparing for a horrendous long haul flight did I wish that I could just find a quick and simple checklist for travel essentials. As our family grew, so did the amount of ‘stuff’ needed for a long haul flight.
I’m not the most organised and without doubt there would be some kind of issue. Usually this issue was placement! I might have packed all we needed – but could I get to it easily – not a chance!
Organisation is the key
So my first bit of advice is make life easy for yourself. Have essential items close to hand. Make use of all pockets. I learned very quickly to have a small nappy bag with the bare essentials as close as possible to my reach. Stick it on the handle of the buggy at the airport, or if that’s not possible, stuff a nappy and a small pack of wipes in a pocket. It will make your life much easier – especially if you have multiple children and multiple luggage!
I purchased a travel coat from a kickstarter programme and this transformed my long distance journeys. I never wear it on the flight – but it is extremely handy to hang on the back of the chair in front and then all mobile devices, nappies, bribery items etc are within easy reach.
Another hint is to remember to order the kids meals on the flights if they have their own seats. Some airlines offer baby meals for kids under 2 and for those on the lap, but each airline is different and you will need to check.
What you need
So, onto the list. I’ve listed them in ascending age order. Babies will be heavily reliant on the first three and even the following two. As your child gets older, so the reliance on things decreases, but your packing list doesn’t seem to shrink as new things are added:
Nappies (plenty of them). I ALWAYS over pack nappies as there would honestly be nothing worse than stuck on a plane with no access to them!
Wipes (a big pack in my bag, small pack in a pocket)
Formula and bottles if not breastfeeding. If you are flying with a younger baby, there are pre-sterilized, disposable bottles available (These ones are 100% recyclable). These are a must for your journey and you won’t be left with dirty bottles taking up space. The rules regarding liquids change for each airport you fly from. It is possible to get through security with packed formula cartons over 100mls, however this tends to be at smaller airports. There is a risk you will be asked to open and test pre-packaged liquids and that leaves on a very tight time limit for them as most need to be consumed within a few hours once opened. Another option is to use a formula divider to section the feeds and use either pre-boiled water (which is fine to open at the airport and test should you need to) or boiled water on the plane. Work out how many feeds you will need and add a couple of extra in just to be on the safe side. Feed on take-off and landing. (this goes for breastfed children as well.)
For kids of all ages:
Snacks (and lots of them) for babies/toddlers/kids of all ages. Snacks will be a lifesaver. They provide entertainment when bored, a source of nutrition for any kids that won’t eat the plane meals and generally are a must. Try lollipops for older kids for take-off and landing, but generally try to limit the sweet snacks otherwise they’ll be bouncing off the walls one minute and coming down off their sugar high the next – usually with tears. You know what your kids like and what they eat – stock up and dish them out once you’re up in the air. A good selection for toddlers and older kids can be found here
If you’re travelling with a small baby, food pouches are a godsend. These ones here are reusable and the right size for planes, or if you would rather pre-made food, Ella’s Kitchen was always a firm favourite of my kids. Stock up on these for the entire journey!
Spare clothes for you and them! It only takes one journey stinking of vomit with no change of clothes to add this to the list. I always take changes of clothes for the kids, but neglected to think about myself. Until I was covered in sick and had no option other than to wipe myself down and spend the next 11 hours stinking. If your kids are older and have their own bags, clothing is a great thing for them to carry. It’s light and isn’t the end of the world if it gets lost.
Comforters. Our kids won’t sleep without ‘Chang” ‘Arf’ and ‘Snuggle Dog’ Do not forget these and if I was you, I would keep hold of them in your own bag as you don’t want them to accidently be left on a chair at the gate!
Calpol (or equivalent). Being from the UK, Calpol is our go to paracetamol for the kids. They do small 5ml sachets which are perfect for travelling. I always take a good few sachets as there’s nothing worse than being mid-air and suddenly a fever, headache or some other mystery illness develops.
Sick bags. Following on from the change of clothes, if you have kids who get car sick, the journey to the airport can be touch and go. We never know whether we’re going to get through it without at least one of them throwing up… and that’s before we’ve even checked in! Carrier bags make great sick bags and could save you paying a fortune in a cleaning service for the taxi!
Travel sickness tablets. Of course, one way to avoid the need for sick bags is to give travel sickness medicine before heading off to the airport. This generally works, but isn’t fail-safe.
Devices. Any and all. In our house, normal rules don’t apply when we’re on our 24-hour journey! Being 30,000 feet in the air with no escape for 12 hours+ is reason enough to let them have a device for an inordinate amount of time.
Headphones and adapters for kids and adults. Those headphones are way too big for my head, let alone the kids. Always, always bring your own[ . Most headphones work in the connections now, but I always take plane adapters – just in case!
Battery packs and charging cables. These should be fairly obvious. Long haul flights are the only time our kids have unlimited access to our ipads/phones. Battery packs are lifesavers two-thirds into all journeys. Many newer planes also have USB connections built into the seats which are perfect… as long as you have your charging lead to hand!
Games card games, puzzle books and travel versions of some family favourites are great on a plane. There are games and puzzles available to suit every age and are a great way to force some time away from the screen. Try to avoid games with small parts that are easily lost otherwise you may find you’re on your hands and knees searching for these parts more than you’re playing. We love card games such as Uno, Top Trumps and Go Fish as well as magnetic versions of some of the most well-known family favourites.
Reading books and drawing tools. Books, pens and pencils will provide hours of entertainment. Whether reading, drawing, colouring or scribbling.
Surprise gifts. I always take a little surprise toy on the journey for the kids. Nothing expensive, but a little something to relieve the boredom and reward for good behavior (NB. Also make a great bribery tool).
Don’t forget to load appropriate games/videos onto devices and make sure everything is fully charged before heading off to the airport.
Don’t be fooled by marketing. We bought a Trunki for our oldest daughter. It was wonderful – until we had to use it! It’s the most impractical bag when travelling on a long haul flight with more than one child. It got in the way, was bulky to carry and she rarely rode on it because frankly, the whole airport process is stressful enough without pulling a child along on a suitcase. I think she may have sat on it once while we were checking in, but that was about it. We soon resorted back to backpacks which can be held by the kids themselves. They each have one to carry anything that is light… Clothes, snacks, pillows etc.